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Criminal Proceedings in Scottish Courts, 2005/06

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3 Commentary: Criminal Court Proceedings in Context ( Table 1, Chart 2)

3.1 Chart 2 and Table 1 provide a summary of known action in the criminal justice system. The total number of crimes recorded by the police in 2005/06 was 417,800, five per cent less than in 2004/05 (see chart 1 and table 1). Apart from an increase in 2004/05, an anticipated effect of the introduction of the Scottish Crime Recording Standard, levels of recorded crimes have generally been decreasing, and 2003/04 was the only year with a lower level of recorded crime for nearly a quarter of a century. The number of crimes cleared up by the police decreased by 2 per cent from 195,200 in 2004/05 to 190,900 in 2005/06, although this is in the context of an overall decrease in the number of crimes recorded. The number of offences recorded by the police decreased by 6 per cent from 633,000 in 2004/05 to 593,800 in 2005/06.

3.2 "Clear-ups" do not necessarily result in a report being made by the police to the procurator fiscal. For example, where the alleged offender is a child, a referral will normally be made to the Reporter to the Children's Panel. The vehicle defect rectification scheme operated by police forces offers the owners of defective vehicles the opportunity to avoid a report being made to the procurator fiscal, and the consequent possibility of court proceedings, by having their vehicle repaired within a given period. An alternative to court proceedings for moving motor vehicle offences is the police conditional offer of a fixed penalty. In 2005/06 there were 240,600 police conditional offers, 14 per cent less than in 2004/05. It is not known how many alleged offenders are dealt with informally by the police or by other agencies, rather than the procurator fiscal.

3.3 Referrals or reports may often include more than one crime or offence, and in the case of reports to the procurator fiscal may also involve more than one person. There is thus no direct relationship between the number of crimes and offences recorded by the police and the number of disposals resulting from the action of other agencies within the criminal justice system. In addition, many offences such as Wireless Telegraphy Act or Communications Act offences (failure to pay a television licence) are not recorded by the police in the first instance. Where crimes or offences are recorded and cleared up by the police, procurator fiscal or other action does not necessarily occur in the same year. In 2005/06, the number of reports received by the procurator fiscal was 339,400, an increase of 3 per cent compared with 2004/05.

3.4 Prosecution in court is only one of a range of possible options the procurator fiscal has for dealing with persons who have been charged. Other actions include the use of fiscal warnings, diversion to social work, the use of conditional offers of a fixed penalty for a range of motor vehicle offences, the "fiscal fine" for less serious non-motor vehicle offences, sending cases to the Reporter to the Children's Panel or a decision to take no proceedings.